Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith
By Ben M. Bogard
(1900, pp. 234-238)
S. H. Ford at age 81
S. H. Ford was born in Bristol, England, February 19, 1819. He came with bis parents to America when he was a child and the family settled in Missouri. His father was a preacher of ability, and soon after coming to Missouri he became pastor at Columbia, where he preached the gospel with good effect for several years.
In early life S. H. Ford was converted and called into the ministry. He entered Bonne Femme College, where he graduated with distinction, and afterwards studied at the State University at Columbia, Mo.
In his senior year at the University he was called to the care of the church at Jefferson City, Mo. Although he was only twenty-five years old, he was even then a great preacher. It was here he began a career which has not been equalled, in many respects, by any other man in America. He has been pastor in Memphis, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and St. Louis, Mo.
He was for several years editor of the Western Recorder, Louisville, Ky., and for near forty-six years he has been editor of Ford's Christian Repository.
His career as editor, including his connection with the Western Recorder, has been longer than that of any other editor in America. Dr. J. R. Graves had been editor of the Tennessee Baptist for forty-nine years when he went home to Heaven, but S. H. Ford has been doing the work of editor for fifty years and is still wielding an able pen.
Dr. Ford had much to do in founding William Jewell College, and he was the first man to sound the note of warning about the financial basis of representation in associations and conventions, and at one time he introduced an amendment to the Constitution of the Missouri General Association to do away with that unbaptistic clause which demands the payment of money before a church is entitled to admission.
He has written two valuable histories. His Ecclesiastical History and his Brief Baptist History are reliable, clear, and strong. His book on What Baptists Baptise For is the best book of the kind which is now on the market. But, perhaps, his greatest work is THE GREAT PYRAMIDS. This is a scientific work and manifests unusual ability.
The best things he has written, however, have not been published in book form. His strong article on current topics in the Christian Repository shows him to be what he is: ready, strong, accurate. Although engaged frequently in heated discussions, he has never lost his balance, and, perhaps, no other man has been engaged so constantly in the discussion of current theological topics. Conservative, logical, safe, and honest, he has nearly always been found on the side of right and truth. No man has stood more constantly and tirelessly for Baptist principles. He has stood like a great stone wall against every attack on Orthodoxy. No other man has so thoroughly exposed and answered this "Invisible, Universal, Spiritual Church " theory as he. His discussion of that question, in part, is published at the close of this sketch, and the reader may judge for himself how thoroughly he has done his work.
No sketch of Dr. Ford would be complete without mentioning his excellent helpmeet, Sallie Rochester Ford. She has written a number of books which have been widely circulated. Grace Truman has reached at least fifty thousand circulation and its influence has been great hundreds being converted to Baptist views by it, besides confirming the faith of many who were wavering. The Dreamer's Blind Daughter, a beautiful story of John Bunyan's afflictions, and other works which have had a wide circulation, as well as her editorial work in the Repository, tell of her great life work. Dr. Ford would not have been the strong man he is if it had not been for the great woman he married and with whom he has lived for more than half a century.
During the civil war Dr. Ford was elected a member of the Confederate Congress. His gift as an orator and his happy knowledge of human nature would have made him a power in politics, but like many other men, he sacrificed all of that for the privilege of fighting the good fight of faith in Prince Immanuel's army.
In his eighty-first year he is still at work, and he will die in the harness.
There are many incidents in his remarkable life which would be of interest to relate here, but one of them will suffice:
While he was pastor in St. Louis, forty years ago, he heard of a sick young man and he went to see him. He found him in a room located where the Repository is now published. He soon understood that the prospect of death was near, and at the request of the sick boy he wrote to his mother, who lived in New England, to come as soon as possible, stating that if she came at once she might get to St. Louis in time for the burial of her son.
It was before the day of fast trains, and the trip had to be made by land and by steamboat. It would take at least three weeks for the letter to reach the mother and enable her to reach St, Louis. The prospect was that he would be dead and buried before the mother's arrival.
Meantime Dr. Ford talked with the young man about his soul and prayed with him, and the result was he became a happy believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He soon had strength to "arise and be baptized and (figuratively) wash away his sins," and he, with Pastor Ford and a number of the brethren, went to a lake situated exactly where the great Union Depot now stands, for the purpose of being buried with Christ in baptism.
Just as Dr. Ford pronounced the words: "I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," and buried the body out of sight in the watery grave, a shout was heard on the shore of the lake, and the first sight that greeted the young convert's eyes was his mother, who threw her arms about his wet body, and said, "O, my son, I came to see you buried, but I was not expecting to see you buried like this." She had arrived just in time to reach the baptizing. Perhaps there never was a more forcible illustration of the truth taught in baptism death, burial, resurrection.
The grand old man will soon pass over the river, but his work will endure. When he dies it can truthfully be said of him: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them." Revelation 14:13.